Wednesday, June 6, 2012

News Coverage of Venus Transit Event at Russell Planetarium

The viewing at the planetarium yesterday got a lot of media attention. There were trucks out from Channel 4 and Channel 23. Here is the coverage from Channel 4 which includes an interview with Gary Carter of the Texas Astronomical Society. You can see our equipment at about the 30-40 second mark (that's me in the light blue shirt and Tilley hat).

2012 Transit of Venus

2012 Transit of Venus
Originally uploaded by neatonjr
Well, between the Texas heat and summer thunder storms, seeing Venus transit the sun was challenging but it was still an exciting event. A nice sized crowd turned out at the Russell Planetarium (West Mesquite High School) were we set up our 8" Dobsonian and shared our Canon image-stabilized binoculars for public viewing (both outfitted with Baader film filters).

I also set up our Parks 60mm refractor but instead of having people line up to view directly through it, I used a barlow to attach my Nikon D7000, tethered it to a laptop and displayed the transit full-screen on the laptop while capturing live high-def video. So, rather than a long line like the other telescopes, with this setup a small crowd could watch at once. When the clouds obscured the view, I could play back the video and still allow people to watch - handy for the few people who arrived during a cloudy period and had not yet been able to see the transit.

Did I mention it was hot? It was ironic that we were all out there anxious to see the sun but also wishing for shade. And with the sun so low and the heat in the 90s, the turbulence was pretty bad so pictures and video weren't as sharp as they could have been but, wow, it was still an amazing sight.

Thanks to Paul Ballou for hosting this event at the planetarium. Besides having Texas Astronomical Society on hand with telescopes and the Dallas Museum of Nature and Science present to help, he was showing the live NASA feed of the transit from Mauna Kea in the theater so during periods where it was cloudy, people who attended could go inside and cool off while continuing to watch the transit.

Only another 105 years till we get to do this again...

Here's the video: